Paying it forward
Joann Rossovich keeps a stuffed turquoise dog named “Lucy” in her bedroom.
“I’ll take her in when I read to the children,” Rossovich said. “I’ll set her on my lap or put her on the floor, and the kids are given permission to do anything that Lucy does, which generally speaking, is nothing. But they’ll watch her the whole time I’m reading just to make sure she doesn’t move.”
Known to some as the “grandmother” of the Pleasant Ridge Union Elementary School District, Rossovich, 74, has dedicated most of her life to serving students in the district. In May, though, she stepped down from the district’s board after more than 14 years.
“I just look at it and go, so many years of Rossovich up there in the front, it may be time to let someone else have their nameplate up there,” Rossovich said. “I’m 74, I’ll be 75, and it’s time to do something else.”
While nameplates can be replaced, Rossovich’s service to the district cannot.
“(Rossovich) and her family have been an integral part of our district for so long,” District Superintendent Rusty Clark said. “She’s been such an irreplaceable asset to our students.”
Rossovich says her years of service to the district was her way of paying it forward.
“There were people that helped me out during my journey as a child,” Rossovich said. “And there were a lot of things that I needed help with. So I know how hard it can be.”
Rossovich spent seven of the first 10 years of her life as a foster child being moved around to different families.
“My file read ‘Child too independent, and too difficult to place.’ I guess I told somebody to go to hell once too often,” Rossovich recalled. “But that lack of stability for a child can take a toll on your self-esteem.”
When she was 10, Rossovich was adopted by a Bay Area family. Her mother was a school teacher, and her father was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Living in the Bay Area, Rossovich recalls playing hooky from school and spending time at her father’s job as a “newsroom brat.”
“I got adopted by an extremely caring family who put up with a lot of nonsense with me until I figured out I was in the safe zone,” Rossovich said.
During college, Rossovich met her husband, Edmond Rossovich, through a friend and the two got married and had four children.
The couple ran a grocery store in Palo Alto but moved to southern Nevada County in 1970.
“We just moved for a change of life,” Rossovich said. “The district consisted of one school at that time, and we had four children, three were school age, and so we got involved with the school.”
Rossovich joined the Parent Teachers Club, helped during school fundraising events, and enjoyed being involved in seeing the school grow.
To make ends meet, Edmond Rossovich worked for the Nevada Irrigation District, and the family owned a small meat processing business, operating a farm that raised sheep.
“(Edmond) liked doing things for the kids, and often he put on the kindergarten barbecues during the school years,” Joann Rossovich said.
“He was there when he was needed and it was something that we just grew into. Kids meant a lot to him, because by the time he was 10, he had lost both parents and he was being raised by an 18-year-old sister.”
Edmond Rossovich joined the Pleasant Ridge Union School Board in 1977, and was also an active member at Bear River High School, as their youngest son was part of the school’s first graduating class. In November 1999, Edmond Rossovich was killed in a car accident. He was 64.
“He was on his way to barbecue for the last game of the season for the Bear River High School football team,” Joann Rossovich said. “I kicked myself for not being here, we were getting the driveway done, and he didn’t eat that day. He drank coffee with sugar and cream to keep going … It’s just hard.”
After her husband’s untimely death, Rossovich decided to continue his legacy.
“I said to the board, ‘I’m putting you guys on the spot but how would you feel if I ran to fill my husband’s spot on the board?’” Rossovich recalled.
For Rossovich, the little things that she was able to do for students is what she is most proud of.
“Sometimes just letting them get off their chest what’s bugging them is enough for them to move forward,” Rossovich said. “So just talking to them and listening to them really helps.”
Rossovich says that being on the board gave her insight into what is wrong with the educational system.
“I think we should educate our kids on how government is supposed to work so they don’t get caught up in how it’s working now, because it isn’t working,” she said.
“When money talks louder than the people in the country there’s something wrong, and that shouldn’t be the way education should be done. When it’s reduced to a dollar sign then you lose something.”
Rossovich still plans to contribute to the district and students. Her next project is a “Wall of Fame,” where Rossovich plans to highlight all of the accomplishments that adults, who have gone to the schools in the district, have contributed to society.
“The Mars rover was designed by kids that graduated from Magnolia School,” Rossovich said. “I think our area needs to acknowledge that these kids grew up here and this is what they’ve given back. It’s marketing the district, but it’s saying we may be a small county but we do great things.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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